GSY REVIEW | PC Tuesday, February 14, 2012 | 8:05 PM

Gamersyde Review: Dear Esther

Gamersyde Review: Dear Esther

You all know that sometimes we like to give more independent projects some special coverage so people become aware that Indie games can actually be worth a look. Dear Esther is clearly one of these games, though it is actually not quite clear if it is really a video game per se. Known by the Half Life² community since 2008 when it was released as a free mod, the game has just been released on Steam in a new version and will only cost you €7.99 or $9.99. To find out if you should succumb to temptation, read our review and watch our exclusive video.

Dear Esther is like nothing you have ever seen or played before. It is indeed a unique narrative voyage where the player is told a mysterious story by an even more mysterious narrator who happens to be the main character. Who are you? How and why did you end up on this strange deserted island? Who is Esther? Who is Paul? Who is Donnelly? So many questions you will ask yourself while listening to the main character's randomized interventions. Questions you may actually never get a clear answer to, which makes the story all the more ambiguous. Don't expect to fully understand it in one playthrough, or even to come to the exact same conclusions as other players. Indeed, it's all about interpretation.

The paradox with Dear Esther is that it manages to make you lose yourself in its world and story while still proposing a very straightforward experience. The shores and caves you will explore will always point you in the right direction, though you will never be quite sure what makes you move forward and why you are doing it. Glimpses of the story are given from time to time as you progress through the desperate landscape, conveying a sense of despair, loss and solitude. Sadness can be felt at every corner, in each sentence, as well as in the moving soundtrack which will sometimes accompany you on your journey. Time stops, the slow pace being one of contemplation and introspection.


Dear Esther will either seduce you or leave you perplexed, which makes it so difficult to review. Everything about it seems to move it further away from the definition of a video game. All you have to do is basically walk around the enrapturing landscapes and discover the bits and pieces of a story which is full of contradictions. Because the dialog is randomized, Dear Esther invites you to play the game a few times to try to uncover the mystery but in the end, everything will be left to your own interpretation. And that is probably the beauty of it and why the game should be experienced more than talked about. Strange, sad, mesmerizing, these are some of the few adjectives that popped into my mind when playing. So yes, it may not be a game per se, but the 90 minutes or so necessary to complete the four chapters were really something. At least to me.

Download: WMV HD | MP4 HD

All comments

Commented on 2012-02-14 20:52:46
Holy Crap, Dear atmosphere this has. Its the "wait for a steam sale" perfect game, but i'll resist to it. shame it is going to be a short ride.
Commented on 2012-02-14 21:36:06
Ill buy it next friday :)
Commented on 2012-02-14 23:05:36
The sound design is ridiculous in this game, gave me the shivers quite a few times. Distant sounds of children laughing, radio noise, almost human shouts.

I just came across the crazy hallucination location change. I'll keep on playing more.
Commented on 2012-02-14 23:07:08
If I didn't already own a zillion games on Steam that I'm never going to play, I'd probably jump right on this.
Commented on 2012-02-14 23:09:51 In reply to GriftGFX
Posted by GriftGFX
If I didn't already own a zillion games on Steam that I'm never going to play, I'd probably jump right on this.
What's one more?

Commented on 2012-02-14 23:10:12
I've been taking mad number of screenshots, utterly gorgeous but also trying to make sense of the wall scrawls. "I shall be a fungus heap".

The narration reminds me heavily of Amnesia. The writing is right out of a bygone Edgar Allen Poe novel. "My disease is the internal combustion engine and the cheap fermentation of yeast".
Commented on 2012-02-15 01:06:40
Just finished it. Wow, pretty cool ending.
Commented on 2012-02-15 01:30:12
is there a way to turn off the subtitles in this game? looks like they got lazy and just put the whole script on the screen
Commented on 2012-02-15 01:55:50 In reply to mustacio
Posted by mustacio
is there a way to turn off the subtitles in this game? looks like they got lazy and just put the whole script on the screen
Yup, go to Audio and turn off Closed Captions.
Commented on 2012-02-15 10:52:52
Hard to think only one artist worked on the the visuals, incredible!!! O__O
Commented on 2012-02-15 16:15:04 In reply to GFreeman
Posted by GFreeman
Hard to think only one artist worked on the the visuals, incredible!!! O__O
Yup, one of the main artists from Mirror's Edge! (Robert Briscoe)
Commented on 2012-02-15 18:40:47
Yeah, absolutely love his work. Been following this whole production up till release, absolutely incredible stuff! Seven people all in on the team, amazing! :)
Commented on 2012-02-15 18:54:56
Playing it a second time, didn't even realise some of the writing is randomly generated at certain points. Gives even more interpretations and context to the whole mystery.
Commented on 2012-02-16 20:29:34
Downloading this gem as I type. I have to say that recently I`ve been searching for something different and this ticks ALL of my boxes!

£6.99 on Steam is a bargain and I can`t wait for my puny 230 k/sec to get with it.

Killing Floor for £2.24 also took my interest............BARGAIN!
Commented on 2012-02-16 20:42:35
This look very immersive! Do want.
But somehow I feel this could be so much more with a decent engine under it.....hmm, maybe I'm just spoiled.
Commented on 2012-02-17 16:32:35
Better engine? Isn't it using Source? I know that it's an older engine but the devs knew that by using it would allow a lot of older machines to run the game smoothly. It looks nice on the videos but I won't get to play it until after work on Monday. My ageing Alienware should run this at 1920 x 1200 without issue.

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